We all suffer from information overload. It’s often called information fatigue and it can be a result of not enough white space. We need our information to be as easy to read as possible, because we are exposed to so much of it on a daily basis.
Whether you are a creative writer or a business writer you will have heard about white space. We come across this advice again and again: Make sure you have enough white space.
But what does ‘white space’ mean?
White space is a design principle. Simply, the absence of text draws your eye to the text. It literally refers to the amount of space around and between the words.
It is about creating text that is inviting to the reader. When your text forms a solid block it overwhelms your reader. The reader is negative about it, before they even begin to read.
Think about textbooks. They generally have long paragraphs, with long sentences. There is very little white space. Below is an image of George Orwell’s 1984. It is a good example of a book with very little white space, and even though it’s one of the more readable classics, you
still have to work hard.
It makes it easier for us to read.
It draws the reader’s attention to the text.
It is uncluttered and calming.
Five ways to create white space:
Use lists. When you list items it makes it scannable. If you have more than three points it is better to number your items instead of using bullets. Try not to use more than 3-5 bullets.
Increase line spacing. If it is possible increase your line spacing on your documents. A good average is 1.5. Remember to refer to the company style guide before you do this.
Shorten your sentences. Long sentences form solid blocks. You should vary the length of your sentences.
Break up paragraphs. Reconsider your paragraphs and try to discuss only one point per paragraph.
Avoid justifying your documents. People are passionate about justifying their documents, but it makes it harder to read and proofread. Most professional documents have been typeset and your average computer doesn’t typeset very well. It creates rivulets (diagonal spaces) between the words, uneven spaces in sentences and solid blocks of text.
White space is about letting your writing and your reader breathe.
Top Tip: If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.
by Mia Botha
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